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‘Deluge’ of drugs fuelled violence at men’s prison, chief inspector warns

The use of the new psychoactive substance known as “spice” was “particularly problematic”, according to a report.

A “deluge” of drugs has fuelled violence, debt and self-harm at a men’s jail, the chief inspector of prisons has warned.

Peter Clarke said many of the poor outcomes at HMP Bristol were directly related to “chronic” staff shortages and a history of underinvestment in the establishment.

One in seven inmates said they had developed a drug problem while at the prison, which was far higher than at the time it was last inspected.

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(Andy Butterton/PA)

The use of the new psychoactive substance known as “spice” was “particularly problematic”, according to the inspection report.

It said the average positive rate from random, mandatory drug testing was “exceptionally high”.

Last week Mr Clarke identified the “seeming inability” to keep drugs out as a major factor in declining safety standards across much of the prison system in England and Wales.

His report on HMP Bristol, which was inspected in March, found violence towards staff and between prisoners was “very high”.

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(Barry Batchelor Wire/PA)

Levels of self-harm had risen, and there had been seven self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection, according to the assessment.

Mr Clarke said: “At HMP Bristol, it became very clear to us that many of the poor outcomes were directly related to chronic staff shortages and a history of underinvestment in the prison.

“This had coincided with a deluge of illicit drugs, fuelling violence, debt, self-harm and physical and mental illness among prisoners.

“The lack of staff and the poor physical environment on the wings had merely added to the problems.”

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(Barry Batchelor/PA)

Despite these “enormous challenges”, he said there were grounds for thinking improvement would soon be seen, with more staff due to arrive and plans to improve conditions in some of the units.

Michael Spurr, chief executive of HM Prison and Probation Service, said: “Performance at Bristol isn’t at an acceptable level and the governor is taking robust action to tackle the problems.

“Funding has been increased and more staff, including an additional 29 prison officers, are being recruited.

“Work to improve safety, reduce violence and improve first-night arrangements is being prioritised.”

HMP Bristol is a category B facility made up of Victorian and later 20th-century buildings. It held 543 prisoners at the time of the inspection.

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